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Hot-water Drilling And Bore-hole Closure In Cold Ice

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Drilling bore holes in deep, cold ice masses by hot-water methods and maintaining these holes with sufficient diameter to allow down-hole experimentation poses a major obstacle to the investigation of conditions beneath ice sheets and ice streams. Closure of the water-filled holes by refreezing is the dominant difficulty. In this paper, we describe calculations of heat transfer from the drilling system to the ice and the subsequent time-dependent motion of the phase boundary defining the bore-hole wall. Results are presented with the view of optimizing the bore-hole radius at depth for a fixed drill performance and a variable rate of drilling.

Calculation of melting/refreezing rates at the bore-hole wall requires the use of a one-dimensional, time-dependent numerical heat-flow model with a distorting mesh which follows the changing hole size. The delay of hole closure is discussed with a view to keeping holes open long enough to allow instruments to be lowered to the glacier bed, while realizing that drilling-system performance may be marginal because of logisitical and/or expenditure constraints. The relative merits of drilling a large hole, which is very time consuming with a small drill, and the use of water-soluble antifreezes, which have a history of creating plugs of ice slush, are discussed. A method of creating a stable hole filled with antifreeze in which ice slush does not occur is described.

The recent application of these theoretical ideas to the planning and implementation of successful hot-water drilling programs in Antarctica and Greenland is also presented.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1990-01-01

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.

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